Tag Archives: suicide

13 July 2009: Insomnia

2 AM—steroid insomnia
Or insomnia of another sort of course
Statistics & mastectomy pictures
Reconstruction, Tamoxifen, Michigan
Bankruptcy, relationship, religion,
Jack the Ripper, gender/secondary sex characteristics,
the Bodleian, Haworth, Wuthering Heights,
Simone de Beauvoir, ‘writer’s block,’ the emptiness,
Mastectomy, my imaginary children
Chemo in the morning
Dr S—what to say?
The emptiness—the horror

 This is the hour when you notice clocks ticking, clocks you can’t find. Inevitably I wake him, fumbling for my glasses and bathrobe. He sits up, flustered, and says my name. I confirm. “Are you ok?” he asks. How can I possibly answer that? I will always be against this disease, afraid of my body. Will I ever be “ok” again, then?

My computer, that suggestion of connections, short circuits as per usual. I sit at the kitchen table and drink a glass of water. Consider the impossibility of Erie Pennsylvania.

 For moments I believe I could go home—sell coffee, build bookshelves, learn German. And then I imagine them dredging my body from the Thames; I am unable to cope with the slightest inconveniences of living. Why can’t I just behave like that quintessential quasi-sick-in-the-head cancer patient, celebrating sunlight and buttered toast,  ‘embracing’ the previously-ignored minutiae of existence? I’d like to believe I am too bright to be seduced by the perverse propaganda of this disease, but perhaps I am just not brave enough to live in any instance, under any circumstances.

My children are—have always been; I remember sketching their future existences as an eleven-year old—so real to me that to ever know I could not have them, could not raise them, watch them become people, I surely could not bear to live. So I continue to hope for that sake, unable to bear the consequences of the alternative. I do not want to live solely for myself. I believe I would be a good parent—God, I already love the thought of them more than my own stupid life.

I am so ashamedly cruel to wish cancer on almost everyone I see, but who, really, would not think of a stranger: better you than me?

Three AM. The unbearable certainty of going to lie beside my lover and stare fitfully into the empty space where the ceiling is. My body unable to regulate its temperature. Half-sleep somewhere near dawn, perhaps punctuated by nightmares. And the awful familiarity of what the morning has in store. It could be worse, of course—I think all the time of what could be worse. And it is precisely thinking of all that is worse in the world that undermines my faith and hope in my own insignificant recovery. Better people, younger people, people with more “promise” and “everything to live for”—what right have I to pray for my own uncertain future when a whole world of brilliant people die and have died in wars and ovens and accidents and other acts of inexplicable tragedy?

K. is haunted by the recent suicide of a former colleague from St. P’s—that college has, it seems, an extraordinary rate of tragic deaths among young alumni, or perhaps I am naïve to the preponderance of tragic young deaths in the world. First there was J, who drowned in India, then L who fell to her death in a climbing accident. Now A, on the verge of an enquiry from his employer about misuse of company resources, losing his job or perhaps prison, puts on his best suit, has an expensive meal in some London restaurant, champagne etc, then jumps eight floors.

Two weeks ago a woman jumped from the Carfax Tower. Money trouble, apparently—the headline something like CREDIT CRUNCH KILLS. And traumatizes crowds on Cornmarket Street, no doubt. How unthinkably sad and selfish.

And it troubles me, when I would so like to live.

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Chesnutt’s Consummation.

I discovered Vic Chesnutt on the drive home from my BRCA test results [full story in this post from 12/02/09 ], drawn to his beautiful song about death, “Flirted With You All My Life.”

Remember how I was so taken with the line,

Oh death, oh death, really, I’m not ready’?

He died on Christmas Day.

Oh death, you hector me
You decimate those dear to me
You tease me with your sweet relief
You are cruel and you are constant

When my mom was cancer sick
She fought but then succombed to it
But you made her beg for it
Lord Jesus, please, I’m ready

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Results are in

& I do NOT have a BRCA mutation.

Which is, yes, good news. Who wants to take me out for a martini? But my sense of emotional relief is tempered by the rational knowledge that this relief is largely artificial and unfounded, since I’ve already had f-ing cancer, and could die from it still.  And there’s no certain explanation for it now; cancer being genetic & all, not having the BRCA mutation likely means there’s some other genetic malfunction in me that hasn’t been discovered (and patented) yet.

I am taking the same course of action in light of these results as I promised myself I would if I tested positive: ie, doing nothing. But do feel blessedly exempt from that pressure of BRCA-scaremongering into preventative surgery.

I really wonder whether there is something defunct with my primal sense of self-preservation. I’d probably feel differently about preventative surgeries if I had children, or a life’s work, or anything else to live for. But I thought about it as I lay in bed this morning, hitting the snooze button over and over, and came to the same old conclusion: how presumptuous it seemed to act as if my life was really all that important–and how pointless it seemed to go through such great pains to prolong it.

Which is why I am dreading my upcoming mammogram, and why I have not called for the results of the CT scan I had six weeks ago. If I have cancer, still or again, I don’t want to know. I don’t want any more treatment. It’s terror and desperation, exhaustion and depression. But I can’t sustain myself on any of that, and I don’t want to.

(I am eligible to be tested for Li-Fraumeni syndrome, but would have to pay $3,000 for the privilege. And really, there’s not much point in knowing anyway, since there’s nothing anyone can do but wait for you to get brain tumors and leukemia and all the rest.)

I’m still obviously at risk for a new breast cancer on the left side, or for a recurrence/metastasis of the primary cancer. But I realized the full implication of the negative test result about twenty miles from the hospital, and burst into tears in the middle of traffic on I-79: as far as I know, I’m at no greater risk for ovarian cancer than the rest of the general population.

And I thought of all the women walking around with their ovaries inside of them, not even thinking about it, certainly not shedding tears of joy on the interstate over it, and felt strange–but strangely elated.  Even if I can never have children, there is something psychologically comforting about keeping those bits where they belong–and not having to defend to the death my decision to do so.

Then on NPR, an interview with Vic Chesnutt, & this rather incredible song:

Vic Chesnutt – Flirted With You All My Life

which he described as a “breakup” with death & the temptation of suicide.

Bizarre how Fate sometimes supplies a soundtrack.

Oh death, oh death
Really, I’m not ready

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